The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has confirmed its Alpha Jet was shot down by bandits after an interdiction operation in the North-Western part of the country.
It, however, said the pilot of the jet was rescued after ejecting from the plane.
LEADERSHIP reports that the latest incident is the fourth time a military plane has crashed this year.
Recall that the social media was awash with news of a NAF jet crash on Sunday but the NAF headquarters denied the report, saying it was unaware.
But military sources, however, confided in LEADERSHIP on Sunday that there was a possibility of a plane crash but the details were sketchy.
The NAF director of public relations and information, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet, in a statement on Monday, said the aircraft came under intense enemy fire after returning from a successful air interdiction mission between the boundaries of Zamfara and Kaduna States which led to its crash in Zamfara State on Sunday, July 18, 2021.
He said the incident happened at at about 12.45am but no human casualty was recorded.
He said the gallant pilot of the aircraft, Flight Lieutenant Abayomi Dairo, successfully ejected from the aircraft and using his survival instincts.
Gabkwet added that the pilot, who came under intense ground fire from the bandits, was able to evade them and sought refuge in nearby settlements awaiting sunset.
He said using the cover of darkness and his phone set for navigation, Flight Lieutenant Dairo, was able to elude several bandits’ strongholds and maneuvered his way to a Nigerian Army Unit, where he was finally rescued.
He noted that the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Oladayo Amao, upon receipt of the news of the crash had directed that all efforts must be emplaced to rescue the pilot.
“Accordingly, NAF Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) platforms and helicopter gunships provided close air support to NAF Special Forces and Nigerian Army troops who were able to locate the crash site and the pilot’s parachute, while also combing nearby locations for any sign of the pilot.
“It is gladdening to note that while in hiding, Flight Lieutenant Dairo confirmed that the presence of NAF aircraft within the vicinity of the crash site helped in scaring the bandits who were after him, thus enabling him to find refuge and escape to a safe location,” he said.
The NAF spokesman recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had recently directed the Armed Forces of Nigeria to do all it takes to flush out criminal elements in Katsina, Zamfara and Kaduna States.
“It is in fulfilment of this directive that the NAF, in conjunction with surface forces, has in the last 2 weeks mounted intensive day and night air interdiction operations against bandits and their hideouts, especially in these 3 states. Through these intensive air operations, hundreds of bandits have been neutralized and several of their hideouts destroyed,” he added.
Gabkwet, however, said despite the setback of the Sunday crash, the NAF remains committed towards fulfilling Mr. President’s mandate as well as other constitutional roles assigned to it.
“The willingness, readiness and tested ability of the NAF remains unshaken and unwavering as it continues to carry out its assigned roles,” he stated.